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Inevitable Change – Miami Dolphins insight

January 5th, 2011 · 6 Comments

We’ve all heard the cliches: “you’re only as good as your last game” or the NFL is a “quarterback-driven league”. Well, when it comes to Miami Dolphins football, these statements comprise a blueprint for change. The Dolphins’ last game was a 38-7 shellacking at the hands (and other body parts) of arguably the best team in the league – the New England Patriots. And while the Fins found ways to win 6 of 8 games on the road, while managing only one win out of 7 games at home (as ludicrous as it sounds), the last game played was truly telling on many levels.

Before we consider the gore of the last match against the Pats, let’s surmise what makes the Patriots the standard by which the marquis teams are measured. Simply put, it all starts with the Coach-QB combo. Indeed the Belichek-Brady era has produced 3 Super Bowl titles, 4 Conference Championships, the only 16-0 regular season in history, and countless number of 10+ win seasons and playoff appearances. A head coach in the NFL is undoubtedly and inextricably linked to the success of his Quarterback. Let’s take a short sample list of the historical best in this context: Lombardi-Starr, Shula-Unitas/Griese/Marino, Noll-Bradshaw, Landry-Staubach, Johnson-Aikman, Walsh-Montana, and believe me, there’s more. Bottom line: each of the coaches listed will always be remembered as a tandem with their QB’s who led the charge. So it is not a surprise to see a decade of nothing but dynasty-like dominance from a coach considered one of the best of all time paired with a passer of like regard.
The Fins’ management recognized that their third-year QB, Chad Henne, was ill-equipped to lead the offense going forward when prior to their Week 9 game vs. Tennessee, they benched him in favor of the Marshall University Alum who had led the Fins to their only division title and playoff appearance in 3 years under HC Sparano – Chad Pennington. Unfortunately for CP and the Fins, this substitution lasted all of 2 plays, as Pennington relented to yet another shoulder injury ending his season and perhaps career. So back came Chad Henne into the mix after a brief experiment with a somewhat-talented but mistake-prone Tyler Thigpen; and but for a sharp outing against Oakland, Henne again fell flat. But the flatness was exacerbated, magnified and drilled with unrelenting reality into the minds of Fin Fans in the final minutes of a loss against the Lions and through ephemeral appearances in the drubbing by the Pats.
The loss to the Patriots placed a polarizing microscope on the deficiencies of the Dolphins, the greatness of their opponent, and how far behind the mammals lag behind their divisional foes. Brady, playing a game that meant nothing but the opportunity to head into a first round bye with additional momentum (and risk catastrophic injury), dominated from start to finish, throwing pinpoint passes, avoiding an occasional quasi pass rush, and basically putting on a clinic in offensive prowess. His backup Hoyer, who hadn’t taken a snap all year, even lit up the Fins D when inserted late in the game. Meanwhile, Miami cast its best two throwers in Henne and Thigpen who could garner zero points until a very late one-handed catch by WR Devon Bess averted a goose egg. But the passer predicament was not isolated. Numerous three-and-outs and turnovers led to poor field position, a tired and unproductive defensive effort, and yet another TD allowed on a 94-yard punt return (NE scored on a blocked FG, kickoff return, and interception in the previous game vs. Fins).
So how do the Dolphins end this horrid streak of collapsing at season’s end (last 2 years) and become more like Mike…I mean Tom? Well, if you believe that HC Sparano, GM Ireland and the talent evaluators on the team are passable (no pun intended) then all we really need is a new franchise QB, right? Not so fast…The reason why Sparano was at first accepted with promise was due to the hand-picked endorsement of The Big Tuna. He then became beloved when going 11-5 just one year removed from the previous regime’s 1-15 campaign. But if you accept the theory that the NFL is indeed a “quarterback-driven league” then we must assign a great percentage of credit to the fact that ex-Jet Pennington had fallen into our laps when Brett Favre took over the Fast Planes’ reigns. Had it not been for the decision-making prowess of the most accurate thrower in league history (an historical fact), Sparano’s first year may have been mired in the same mediocrity which now plagues the team. The key for the Dolphins’ Owner Steve Ross is to examine whether 1) keeping Sparano and/or Ireland and merely changing who leads the offense (OC Henning set to retire) on the field is the right move (deep draft class at QB); OR 2) clean house if having an appreciably better coach available - perceptively and/or by virtue of track record – such as Bill Cowher (product of Steeler system?) or John Gruden (what happened in last year at TB?), to name a couple.
Regardless of what ultimate decision is made by the Fins’ brass, the head coach’s success will inevitably be determined by the Quarterback the team chooses. It is not coincidence that other than Pennington’s glory year, the Dolphins have made the playoffs only once since the great Mia-marino retired. If you want to be like Tom, you’ve got to get a Tom. But remember this: even the Pats didn’t know what they had when taking Tom Brady in the 6th round (199th player taken in 2000 and ironically well after Jets selected Pennington), and certainly not until he secured the starting job when Drew Bledsoe was knocked out with injury. So there’s a little luck involved as well. But luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity, as they say; so, the Fins best prepare to either stay with the current regime and make at minimum a new hire at offensive coordinator, or change the coaching staff in favor of a proven one – but either way, cutting ties with Henne now is a must, while setting their eyes on yet another franchise Quarterback-to-be. I propose obtaining Stanford QB Luck at all reasonable costs…but that’s just me.
Let’s just hope there’s football in 2011. C’mon NFL, don’t ruin a good thing!
That’s all for now.

by: Eric Miller – Sports / Fantasy Football Contributor
Follow Eric Miller on Twitter @footballnutsy

Related posts:

  1. Déjà vu Dolphins?
  2. Offseason Thoughts on the AFC East
  3. Reassessing Thoughts of the Canes & Fins
  4. Week 5 NFL Insight by Eric Miller
  5. Miller’s Week 15 NFL Picks (ATS, Survivor, Fantasy)

Tags: Eric Miller · Sports

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 joey michelena // Jan 5, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    The Sporano regime has been a colossal failure
    underpinned by the facade of an 11-5
    season which led to a thrashing by the Ravens 3 years ago. If you recall, that game was over with 2 minutes still remaining in the 1st half rendering
    the 11-5 meaningless.

    This man, disguised as a coach, has been the worst coach in dolphin history. In fact, when one thinks about it, what ever qualified him to lead any NFL team, especially a storied franchise such as the Fish ??

    I`ll tell you….it`s cronyism-Soprano became best friends with Parcells during Bill`s tenure in Dallas. This, in turn, led to his hiring wherever big Bill went. Why can`t we hire qualified people with proven track records like Harbaugh, Cowher, or Gruden ??

    Instead, washed up ancient types like Parcells
    merely move, and take with them younger friends who are set up in LUCRATIVE positions for which they are not qualified. (sounds like politics to me).

    How ridiculous does Soprano look when he repeatedly fist-pumps meaningless first quarter field goals against sub standard teams. We`ve seen him do it many times……emabarrising himself and all Dolfans who have suffered during his tenure.

    And, please understand it is the head coach who appoints his assistants, so, if you`re wanting to get on DAN HENNING`s case, you shouldn`t,
    because both he and that disaster of a special teams coach were appointed by Slobrano.

    Em, the QB-Coach reference you make is a good one but in order to develop this symbiotic relationship here in Miami, we need first to secure a winning coach with EXPERIENCE.
    THEN, THE GREAT QB will come as long as
    you have a great evaluator of talent.

    To close it is sad and scary it has taken this long TO FIRE SLOBRANO AND HIS ENTIRE STAFF AFTER MAKING THIS THE 2ND MOST EMBARRASING SEASON EVER SINCE SCAM CAMERON AND HIS TED GINN FIASCO.

    WHAT IS BILLIONAIRE ROSS WAITING FOR ????? SURELY, HE ISN`T TAKING ADVICE FROM THE 70 YEAR OLD TUNA, IS HE ??? THEN AGAIN, MY SOURCES TELL ME ROSS AND PARCELLS ARE BEST FRIENDS AND BILL P. WANTS HIS BEST FRIEND SLOBRANO BACK .

    SCARY AND SAD FOR ALL DOLFANS….YOU WILL GET MORE SLOBRANO NEXT YEAR.
    PREPARE FOR THE MORONIC, JUVENILE FIST PUMPS AND CHEERLEADING.

  • 2 joey michelena // Jan 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    CAPTAIN COMEBACK IS COMING TO THE FISH !!!!!!

    WELCOME ABOARD MR. HARBAUGH…SO LONG SLOBRANO !!!!!!!!!!!

  • 3 joey michelena // Jan 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    PLAYOFF PICKS…..EAGERLY AWAITING EM`S INSIGHT….

    Jets -34 colts- 16 (indy=no defense and can`t run the ball, plus the
    jets will rush for 266 yds.)

    Saints -38 seahawks- 10 (Seattle QB`s are BOTH horrific AND THE REST OF TEAM AINT MUCH BETTER)

    Eagles- 21 GB- 20 ( last second akers FG wins it)

    Ravens- 24 chiefs- 6 (cassel choking late in season
    for KC, while ravens sport the best trio of WR `s in NFL)

  • 4 joey michelena // Jan 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Em, can you believe it ? Harbaugh USED the Dolphins as a way to leverage himself to get more $$$ from the 49ers. Brilliant, perhaps,
    nonetheless, sneaky and frustrating since we are
    left with SLOBRANO again.

    I, along with friends and legions of dolfans
    are not renewing season tickets as a result of Slobrano`s rehiring by Ross.

    How can it be deemed acceptable after losing 11 of last 12 home games particularlly the last 4 losses to the horrendous bills,browns,lions, and
    bears. The message you send when bringing back the trash and ineptitude is that it is o.k. when you lose to the aforementioned teams.

    adios fins, you disgrace our city…..GO HEAT !!!

  • 5 joey michelena // Jan 7, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    why give him a one year extension when we
    all know he`ll be fired by the fifth game of the season. They obviously have zero confidence in him or would offer more stability. Poor mgt.
    and ownership not focused on building a winner on the field, only intersted in $$$$$ from
    tv, parking, and concesions.

  • 6 Eric // Jan 8, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Playoff Predictions: Wild Card Round:

    The NFL Playoffs are upon us but first a very brief synopsis on my season picks.
    I finished the regular season at 64% (163-93) on winners beating out the previously incomparable Greg Cote of the Herald. The ATS mark was less impressive but the real good news is that I saved lots of money by switching to Geico! (I know…overused and not that funny).

    Saturday early game: New Orleans 24 at Seattle 17
    Game will be closer than most predict. Key will be how Saints adjust to loss of RBs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Answer: lots of touches by Reggie Bush and emphasis on deep ball vs very suspect Hawks’ DBs. Saints D will place pressure on quasi-healthy Hasslebeck and turnovers will play large factor with Vilma and Darren Sharper forcing a couple.

    Saturday late game: Indianapolis 23 vs New York 20
    This feels like an OT thriller. Jets have added some new pieces since last year’s loss to Colts in title game at same venue. LT will play role in pass game but NY will try pounding with Shawn Greene. Thing is Colts have basically shut down opponents run attacks past 2 games including CJ2K. Indy’s Freeney and Mathis are healthy and on fast track spelling fierce unrelenting pressure on Sanchize. Peyton will have to pass because NY will thwart Addai n Co. Problem here is Revis takes out Wayne and Cromartie gives Garcon fits. So watch for Tamme and/or Blair White Project to score. Oh, It helps to have best kicker of all time in Vinatieri. Advantage Horseshoes.

    Sunday early game: Baltimore 27 at KC 20
    No one really gives host much chance here…neither do I. Chiefs will be exposed for frauds they really are on defense. Ray Rice will have his way gashing run D and amassing yards via air. Flacco will not face much pressure while finding Boldin, Mason and Heap for key plays all day. KC will force ball to Bowe which never works vs Ed Reed, especially in Playoffs. Charles however will be used in short pass game with some positive plays. Tough seeing blowout but still a likely dominant win by the other Harbaugh group.

    Sunday late game: Green Bay 28 at Philadelphia 24
    Marquis game is also toughest to pick. If you buy that Vick is 100% healthy, then disregard this analysis. But if you feel as I do that Rodgers and hottest D in league is ready to take next step forward in evolution, then keep reading. Pack has knack for forcing turnovers and has the speed to keep running Eagles from racking too many explosive plays. McCoy will be key to making road tough for GB. Slip screens may prove more effective than trying to beat Nick Collins and Charles Woodson deep, but that may not stop Vick and Desean from trying. Watch for big game though from Maclin and TE Celek. In the end WR Jennings will prove too much for Asante and Rodgers will step into true elite status (alternative outcome: 27-24 Phily in OT).

    Next week: Pats dominance continues…stay tuned.

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